100 percent success? Or 100 percent disappointment?


My whitetail season's officially finished. I wrapped it up with a "management buck" with poor long-term trophy potential to fill my Idaho tag.

That buck made me 5-for-5 in 2012, a 100-percent bow season -- at least on paper. Despite the numbers, 2012 was not a stellar season. It was simply one of those years when none of my big plans came off as envisioned. By most estimates my season should be viewed as a smashing success, at least for bowhunters not under the thrall of the big names in the industry with seemingly unlimited hunt funds.    

Nothing I tagged this season would be considered outstanding by today's artificial standards. I took a completely average bear this spring, a "raghorn" 4x4 elk in September, a gorgeous if average-scoring Oklahoma whitetail in October, a coyote and doe in Kansas, and finished things off with in late November with a basket-racked 3x3 buck sans brow tines near home. I won't apologize for these animals. Save the Oklahoma buck, all were taken on do-it-yourself hunts, most on public lands.

It's just that with a little more luck all these hunts could've ended differently. For instance, I had some problems with my Idaho bear baits this spring, one of my barrels and a valuable trail camera going missing (a hostile hunt-area takeover attempt, no doubt), also sacrificing most of my season attempting to get our active-military son-in-law a bear. I shot a beautiful bruin the single evening I was able to hunt. I saw some nice bulls this September, but couldn't catch a break and took the 4x4 because time was running out and he offered himself at seven yards. After feeling I'd seen every available buck visiting my appointed Oklahoma stand I filled my tag. All successful bowhunters in camp took better bucks -- though some shot nothing. In Kansas, I passed several handsome bucks (a couple that would make the "book") I would've taken anywhere else outside the hallowed Midwest. While I was away in Kansas a couple behemoth whitetails I'd pursued since September appeared on my trail camera here at home like clockwork. The opening of Idaho's late rifle elk season, however, quickly sent those bucks underground.

The fact I bring any of this up reveals lingering disappointment. In a better world -- the one I started bowhunting in long ago -- I'd have no need to justify anything. But we've seemingly lost sight of what this thing is all about. And I'm just as guilty as anyone. Killing average animals today, even with a bow, doesn't make me average, it makes me feel like a failure. This is tragic, really.

Why do I still feel compelled to compete with the entire bowhunting community, the rich guys in particular, with better places to hunt and the best outfitters in the business? Shouldn't 100 percent be something to celebrate?